Tottenham Hotspur vs Partizan Belgrade match report: Spurs go through in Europa League - but pitch invaders grab the attention

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Partizan Belgrade 0: The match was delayed after fans took to the playing surface on three separate occasions

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The Independent Online

Spurs qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League but at a cost. Heavy censure including a fine or worse can be expected after the referee was forced to suspend the match in the first half following a hat-trick of pitch invasions.

The authorities take a dim view of a club’s inability to provide protection to the players. Benjamin Stambouli’s goal early in the second half set Spurs on their way but the gloss was wiped from the victory by a string of bizarre events before the interval.

The game was halted after 40 minutes when a third pitch invader made his way on to the playing area. What seemed amusing when the first intruder appeared 20 minutes into the game had become not only tiresome but dangerous with the arrival of the third dolt, forcing referee Yevgen Aranovsky, of Ukraine, to call a halt for a full 10 minutes.

The stewards were slow to react, indeed hopeless in their attempts to apprehend offender No 1. Roberto Soldado was far sharper when the second intruder intervened, taking the shirt off his back in an attempted citizen’s arrest. It was his best moment of the night but clearly a risky move, one the referee was unwilling to allow on a third occasion.

 

Given that the funereal-looking Partizan team were kitted out in black like a team of referees – while the officials bizarrely wore gold – it was perhaps rather surprising that the encroachers were not a little more circumspect.

Spurs made six changes from the team that stole victory at Hull on Sunday. Since Mauricio Pochettino has yet to convince anyone he knows what his best team is, there was no way of knowing if players were rested or dropped.

Despite the negativity about the club dynamic under Pochettino, Spurs are only two points adrift of the Champions League places. Since they have shelled out more than £130m in the past 18 months, Pochettino must make do and mend this season at least – assuming he lasts.

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A pitch invader is led away by stewards

Soldado had the first shot away inside 60 seconds, and a smart move it was too, Mousa Dembélé combining with Erik Lamela to set up the chance.

Kyle Naughton was the next to threaten, his shot flying wastefully over the bar. Dembélé was instrumental in the build-up again – the Belgian’s imprint was all over Tottenham’s quick start.

Partizan waited 10 minutes to declare anything like intent but it was impressive when they did, Petar Grbic scorching the turf with serious pace down the right before crossing for Petar Skuletic, whose header flashed just wide.

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A second pitch invader is stopped by a steward

Danko Lazovic should have put the visitors ahead when, with a clear sight of the Paxton Road goal, he went for precision instead of power and side-footed wide.

Time is sometimes the enemy of the striker, as Soldado showed, contriving to miss altogether a cross whipped in from the left.

The Spanish striker did better for the goal four minutes into the second half, his shot rebounding off a post to the feet of Benjamin Stambouli, who calmly slotted home.

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A third pitch invader is hauled to the floor and removed from the pitch by stewards

The mood lifted significantly as Spurs swamped the Partizan box. How Soldado did not add a second with just the keeper to beat only he knows, his tepid stab blocked by Milan Lukac in goal.

It was no surprise when Soldado made way for Harry Kane with 24 minutes left. The kid brings goals and local pride to the piece, a quality the fans are keen to see more of at the Lane.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-1-1): Lloris; Naughton, Vertonghen, Chiriches, Davies; Lennon, Stambouli, Dembélé (Bentaleb, 56), Paulinho (Winks, 87); Lamela; Soldado (Kane, 66). Substitutes not used Vorm, Dier, Eriksen, Ball.

Partizan Belgrade (4-4-2): Lukac; B Ilic, Cirkovic, Stankovic, Volkov; Lazovic, Ninkovic (A Zivkovic, 62), Markovic, S Ilic (Marinkovic, 74); Grbic, Skuletic (Kojic, 78). Substitutes not used Z Zivkovic, Petrovic, Luka, Fofana.

Referee Y Aranovskiy (Ukraine).

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